If you were competing in the 2012 Olympics you would already have been preparing for four years. For my final Olympics, in Sydney 2000, I had been competing since 1988, so everything was building up towards that performance – a lifetime’s work. Presenting, you just get ready for one event, do the presenting and then it is forgotten. It’s a shorter build-up, but much more intense. Everything has to be done within 48 hours.
It’s really exciting to be at a major event, but it’s also very, very scary because it could all go wrong. If you’ve got time to just sit and think, then that’s the worst thing. Reading a book, watching TV or gaming, those things are a very important part of every athlete’s life. It helps them cope with the pressure of competing.
I used to be a big gamer, when I was younger. I’d play those rubbish games on the TV, like the little tennis ones. I used to go to the arcade quite a lot for Track & Field and Space Invaders. I used to play Sonic on the Game Boy, too [We think he means Mario]. I even took a Game Boy with me to the Sydney games. Collecting rings, saving the princess [erm, we’re not sure any more], it’d take my mind off of the pressure. I mean I was competing at the Olympics!
I probably have less time now, than I did when I was competing. There’s always something going on: you’ve got meetings, learning the programme, writing your lines, learning them. Whereas, as an athlete you are left doing nothing.
I think the use of technology in sports has grown. The analysis of movement, finding out ways that you can get those little extra millimetres, foot placements and things like that. There is much more science involved. I think athletes still use basic coaching theory. It’s just about doing the long, hard hours you need to do to be successful.
The 2012 Olympics coverage is clearly going to be in HD, which will be the first time that most people have seen the Olympics broadcast that way. We’re also going to be presenting on the big screens, to make it more engaging for people actually in the venue; 3D is being looked at as well.
The idea is that on the BBC you will be able to watch pretty much everything. Every event is being filmed; it’s just a question of having the bandwidth to show it all. The BBC is going to designate all of their channels to the Olympics. As a result, whether via the red button or on one of the main terrestrial channels, you’ll be able to watch all of the events.